Garfield County guide aims to address obesity problem |

Garfield County guide aims to address obesity problem

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Obesity is a growing problem in Garfield County, even though Colorado is counted as one of the leanest states in the country.

In an effort to get more people eating right and getting more exercise, the Garfield County Public Health Department is launching a campaign and publishing a free guide in English and Spanish to help residents get out and work out.

It’s called “Get Moving” in English and “A Moverse” in Spanish, and will be available in April.

The “Get Moving” guide was researched and assembled by Christopher Nelson, a registered nurse who recently completed an internship with the county’s public health department.

The guide offers tips on eating healthier, and motivates readers to get off the couch and into the outdoors. It includes maps and text to guide readers to the many parks, trails and other recreational amenities available in Garfield County.

The county expects to begin the campaign by printing 500 guides in each language, and printing more as the first lots disappear.

Statistics on obesity rates show the guide is needed for English and Spanish speakers.

Nelson reports that obesity rates are rising faster among Latinos, and obesity is more prevalent in the Latino population.

“We have needed a guide like this for a long time,” said Garfield County public health nurse Laurel Little.

In a presentation to the Garfield County Commissioners on March 21, Nelson presented statistical indicators that show the growing danger of obesity in Colorado, which has held the prized position as the No. 1 leanest state in the country.

Citing numbers from the Trust for America’s Health, a national nonprofit that promotes healthy living, Nelson reported that Colorado’s adult obesity rates stood at 19 percent in 2010.

Nelson also cited the 2010 Colorado Health Report Card, which found that obesity among adults in Colorado has doubled in less than 20 years.

“If this trend continues, we will not be No. 1 for long, as our rates are climbing at a faster rate than other states,” the report card stated.

Obesity is defined as a person whose weight is 20 percent or more than normal, or who has a body mass index of more than 30.

While overall obesity is at 19 percent, Latino adults have a markedly higher rate of 24 percent, Nelson said. Nationwide, Latinos are 21 percent more likely to be obese than whites, he said.

Since the county’s Latino population has doubled over the past decade, from 7,300 in 2000 to nearly 16,000 in 2010, the likelihood of more obese residents has increased.

But, he stressed, detailed data about obesity rates in Garfield County is nearly nonexistent.

His research did uncover the Colorado Health Disparities Profile, released last year by the national Healthy Babies campaign, which estimated a combined overweight and obesity rate for white adults in Garfield County to be 43 percent.

But the profile offers no data on Latinos or for Asians or blacks in the county, Nelson said.

Among children and teens, Nelson said, reported obesity rates range from 7 to 14 percent, a statistical disparity resulting from the difficulty in gathering obesity information in that age group.

“Get Moving” reports that 18 percent of Colorado children and teens are either overweight or obese. Nationwide, the figure is much higher, with more than 30 percent of children and teens reported to be overweight or obese.

Child and teen obesity rates make a direct link to diabetes, a serious and costly illness. With today’s childhood obesity rates, one in three American children born after 2000 are expected to develop diabetes in their lifetime.

Michele Lueck, president of the Colorado Health Institute, said if Colorado could get its obesity rate back to 1998 levels, “we would see nearly $27 billion in economic savings by 2023.” She said obesity costs the state roughly $874 million per year in health care costs.

Garfield County Public Health has collected some figures for low-income children, Nelson said. It finds that obesity among babies up to 2 years old to be 9.2 percent. The rate falls slightly, to 8.9 percent, for toddlers and preschoolers ages 2 to 5.

In general, if parents are overweight or obese, and they do not exercise, their children will follow their parents’ lead, even in Garfield County, he said.

“Most people in the state tend to think we are all fit and are spending time outside exercising,” said Christine Singleton, a registered dietician with Garfield County Public Health. “So it makes it that much harder to get people to understand the seriousness of the situation.

“This is especially true with children, whose obesity rates are climbing faster than the adult rates. And because we don’t have great data on obesity, it’s more difficult to apply for funding and grants to tackle the issue,” Singleton said.

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